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(ANS – Cuiabá) – Yesterday 18 June the Salesian Mission in Mato Grosso celebrated its 118 years. The first foundation entrusted to the Sons of Don Bosco in the State of Mato Grosso was the parish of San Gonzalo do Porto, at Cuiabá, together with the “San Gonzalo” Salesian Institute. In 1895 the Salesians began the evangelisation of the Bororos Indians in the Teresa Cristina Colony. Fr Antonio Malan was one of the main protagonists of the Salesian mission.
The missionary work in Mato Grosso grew progressively according to the needs of the people and thanks to the efforts of the Salesians in bringing the Gospel and caring for the poor. Over the years there has been a constant evolution of the mission.
In 1914 the Prelature of Registro was created and to the Salesians was entrusted the parish as the headquarters of the Prelature; with the name nowadays of “Araguaiana”, there was also a school which closed in 1975. In 1919, in the south of the State, the parish of Aquidauana was entrusted to the Salesians and then in 1930 it passed to the Redemptorists. In 1921 the parish of Santa Rita do Araguaia began, followed by the parishes of Campo Grande and Tres Lagoas, in 1924. In 1925, Fr João Crippa obtained the land in Campo Grande for the Oratory of St Joseph.
Under Fr Dalla Via, the Province extended its operations into the State of Goiás, taking on the direction of the Anchieta Institute, in Bonfim, nowadays o Silvania. During the same years in Campo Grande, the Institute Pestalozzi was acquired, called “Gimnasio Municipal de Don Bosco” It is today a University.
With the arrival of Fr Carletti, in 1932, the Province continued to expand: with a new foundation in Guiratinga, the “Buon Gesù” Institute. In 1934 the novitiate in Conceição, in Cuiabá was re-opened and the following year courses in philosophy and theology began. That same year 1934, Fr Cesar Albisetti became parish priest at Poxoréo, which later would become the centre of the “Operation Mato Grosso” Project, of the youth centre and a centre for the vocational training of young people.
In Campo Grande, in 1949, the Salesians took over the direction of the diocesan seminary until 1970. In 1950, schools in Lucélia and Araçatuba in the State of San Paulo were opened. Lucélia was closed in 1985.
Under Fr João Greiner were built the Retreat House at Chácara São Vicente and the Don Bosco Salesian Institute. In 1962 the “Padre Aquino” Faculty of Philosophy, Science and Literature was opened and the “United Catholic Faculties of Mato Grosso” began, which were to become “Don Bosco Catholic University” in 1993 followed by the opening of new campuses at Lins, Araçatuba, Cuiabá and Corumbá.
From 1961 onwards were opened various social centre services, vocational training schools and the Don Bosco museum. This was re-opened in 2009 and located in the Campo Grande Park of Indian Peoples is now the Don Bosco Museum of Cultures.
At present the Salesian Mission of Mato Grosso has 20 houses and 134 Salesians tirelessly working to promote life in the region.